Migros Museum: Renée Green, “Inevitable Distances”
Location: Zurich, Switzerland
Dates: 24 September 2022 – 08 January 2023
Curators: Mason Leaver-Yap with Assistant Curator Sofie Krogh Christensen (KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin), in collaboration with Dr. Michael Birchall (Curator, Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst), Curatorial Assistant: Joel Spiegelberg, (Trainee, Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst).
Inevitable Distances is a comprehensive survey of Renée Green’s artwork from the early 1980s to the present day. Since the late 1980s Green’s practice has expanded the ways in which art can surface and give form to unwritten histories, collective memory, and cultural exchange. Her work initially came to prominence in the early 1990s and circulated within the social and political flows between the world and the Americas—a concept that includes the United States, Central and South America, as well as the Caribbean, and one which exists in Europe’s various imaginings and projections. In her installations, writings, films, digital media, paintings, drawings and sound works, Green questions the power of cultural institutions and their relationship to language, knowledge and identity. With that in mind, she offers alternative ways for each individual to identify themselves in the present as well as in the future.
Using the museum space to make tangible connections between object, image, sound and text, Green’s carefully choreographed exhibition invites visitors to reflect on their own movement and implication in different cultural histories—including stories about the migration of language and of people.
Motifs of dispersal and displacement are evident in installations such as Idyll Pursuits (1991), where an iconic image of a mountain summit is juxtaposed by the inclusion of a toy kaleidoscope. Pioneering desires for adventure and discovery are undercut with more mundane narratives of confusion and frustration. The viewer is thus invited to see along multiple sight-lines—spatial and temporal, actual and imagined.
One of Green’s earliest installations, Sites of Genealogy (1990), is spread throughout the building, and blends personal, fictional, and historical biographies. Green’s self-written diary-like notes reflecting on a year of her life in the early 1990s appear alongside texts from Harriet Jacobs’ Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (1861) and Richard Wright’s Native Son (1940). Import/Export Funk Office (1992) traces the global dispersion, translation, and commodification of hip-hop culture and its relationship to ongoing African diasporic cultural forms and life.
This exhibition asks: How can we communicate complex histories, and what do those histories reveal back to us about our forms of communication? How do we learn and share knowledge without the need to capture and possess it? How do systems of display and communication affect our relationships to cultural content and life? And what role can pleasure, and imagination play in our lives?
In Inevitable Distances, Green’s formally complex work weaves together representations of thinking and living, indicating the encounters and distances travelled in an artist’s life journey, while pointing out to other ways of being.
Renée Green (b. Cleveland, USA, 1959) has had solo exhibitions at the KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin (2021); the Carpenter Center for Visual Arts, Harvard University (2018); the Museum of Modern Art, New York (2012–2013); the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (2010); the Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts de Lausanne (2009); the Galerie nationale du Jeu de Paume (2008); and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (1993), among others. Her work has also been shown in numerous group exhibitions and biennials, including at the Centre Georges Pompidou (2020); the Museum Ludwig (2019); the 10th Istanbul Biennial (2007); Documenta 11 (2002); the Whitney Biennial (1993); and the 45th Venice Biennale (1993).
The exhibition is produced by KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin, in collaboration with Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Zurich.
Inevitable Distances is accompanied by a book of the same name, co-published by DAAD Artists-in-Berlin Program, Hatje Cantz Verlag, KW Institute for Contemporary Art and Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst. Designed by Carolina Aboarrage, the publication includes contributions from the artist Renée Green, Kathrin Bentele, Howie Chen, Emma Hedditch, Katherine McKittrick, Taylor Le Melle, Ima-Abasi Okon and others, and is edited by Mason Leaver-Yap. It will be available in early 2022.
Code: Survey (Courtesy the artist, Free Agent Media; Bortolami Gallery, New York; Galerie Nagel Draxler, Berlin/Cologne/Munich)
Code Survey is a website and a component of the artwork Code: Survey (2005/2006). This site-specific and publicly accessible work was conceived for the headquarters of the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), located in downtown Los Angeles. Further works related to Code: Survey can be seen in the exhibition.